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The height of summer just begs for a visit to the beach. Here’s a roundup of Santa Barbara beaches just waiting for you to plant your umbrella, lay out a towel, splash around and catch some rays.

East and West

The Santa Barbara coastline does not face west, as does the rest of the California coast, but south. It’s confusing, but makes for protected beaches and calm seas.

East Beach runs for 1.8 miles along Cabrillo Boulevard from Stearns Wharf to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. The Arts & Crafts show lines the sidewalk every Sunday, and a bike path runs for miles. Chase Palm Park, with its whale-themed playground, is across the street. Parking lots flank either side of the Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse, which houses the no-frills East Beach Grill -- breakfast until 11 a.m., then burgers, tacos, sandwiches and salads until 7 p.m.

West Beach is to the right of Stearns Wharf and runs to the Harbor. The Ka Nai’a Outrigger Club hosts Sunday lessons here. Nearby Los Banos Pool caters primarily to lap swimmers, but offers public swims daily in the summer from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. (closed Sundays) -- $1 for kids and $4 for adults.


Continuing on Cabrillo Boulevard, Leadbetter Beach runs from the Harbor to Shoreline Park, below Santa Barbara City College. It’s a great place for beginning surfers, boogie boarding  and stand-up paddleboarding. Dig into great fish tacos with your toes in the sand at the Shoreline Café. Amenities include a large fee parking lot, plenty of beachfront acreage, restrooms, picnic tables and barbecues.


Arroyo Burro is the official name, but locals still call this beach at the foot of Las Positas Road “Hendry’s,” for a family that homesteaded there in the 1880s. Secluded and nestled against bluffs, it a favorite for visitors, locals, kids and dogs. Dogs are allowed off-leash to the left of the lagoon, and there’s a dog washing station conveniently located in the parking lot.

Paragliders take off from the adjacent Douglas Family Preserve, surfers wait for the perfect curl, kids splash in the waves and the mood is laid back. The Boathouse Restaurant is pricey, but has an unparalleled view. Insider’s hint: Their walk-up window offers delicious hand-dipped corn dogs and crisp fries, among other delights.

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The monarchs no longer gather at Montecito’s Butterfly Beach, but tourists and locals alike certainly do! This pleasant mile-long strand is popular for walking, swimming and playing in the waves. Consult a tide table as the beach can disappear at high tide. Leashed dogs are allowed. Warning: There are no facilities.

Family favorite

Goleta Beach is great for families, offering all the amenities: bathrooms, showers, barbecue and picnic areas, horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, playground, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals and more. Go fishing on the 1500-foot-long Goleta Pier, or enjoy a picturesque walk, with views of mountains and sea. The Beachside Café is a popular eatery with a large deck for outside dining.

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Julia McHugh can be reached at